Slice of Life

Haunted by ghosts of Halloweens past

ktanner@thetribunenews.comOctober 28, 2013 

Spectres wander along Main Street in West Village of Cambria in 2012, in search of sugary sustenance sufficient to hold body and soul together.


True costume frustration is pushing, pulling and otherwise manipulating thick, fluffy fleece through a sewing machine at 11 p.m. on Oct. 30, trying to make all that fabric look like a bunny. Not the Playboy type, smarty pants. I’m talking floppy ears and big feet, child’s size 4. Plus a bear suit in size 6.

But that’s what makes Halloween fun, right? Last-minute inventiveness and the unexpected, spiced up with the plaintive cry, “Mom, I need 35 cupcakes in 10 minutes!” and the compulsion to sledge-hammer an idiotic, motion-activated witch that cackles “Ha-a-a-appy Halllllloooooowwwwweeeeen!!” every time anybody walks by.

I miss it. Halloween’s just not the same without kids in the house.

Our offspring are adults now. Since we’ve lived in this house (on a steep hill with no street lights), we’ve had exactly one trick-or-treater: A raccoon that traipsed back and forth on our roof one Halloween night. He was all trick, no treat.

To fill the gap, some community leaders, Facebook friends, family members and co-workers shared memories of costumes past, including fairy princesses, hobos, a very inventive Martian, Madame Pompadour, witches a la “Wicked,” gypsies and dinosaurs.

Genie Curti-Ruddle of Waikoloa, Hawaii (formerly of Cayucos), was 28 when she costumed “as a flaming red cockroach complete with proboscis (gas mask). My friend went as a giant can of Raid.” In the Halloween costume contest, the duo won first place and a free vacation in Kauai.

Laura Ruthemeyer (now of Washington state), wore this costume to work at what was then the Telegram-Tribune in the mid-1990s: “I cut a circle out of cardboard, got a paper table cloth, some plastic plates, cutlery and a plastic wine glass (that I swirled red nail polish in to look like wine). I glued it all to the ‘table,” cut a head hole and voila! The most awkward costume ever!! Luckily, I didn't try and wear it on the way to work.”

Julia Hickey and Sarah Linn, Tribune co-workers now, first met at a Halloween party when both were dressed as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (unibrow and all).

Nick Franco, a State Park district superintendent, wrote that his strongest (sweetest) memory of being a young pirate “is the amount of time my mom spent sewing a costume together that met my 6-year-old specifications,” plus “the time my Dad spent handcrafting a wooden sword and painting beard stubble, wrinkles and scars on my face and arms.”

Lisa Stromsoe of Templeton said she once “was kind of a Lady Godiva thing/person, with a really cool wig to my ankles.” She didn’t say if she was wearing anything else. I didn’t ask.

Linda Foster Finley of Cambria morphed into good witch Glinda after finding “this very fancy, foofy dress at a second-hand store, borrowing a VERY large-cup bra and stuffing it with a bunch of shoulder pads.” She made a glittery-star wand and, presto! “I was Glinda with big cleavage.”

Cambria Community Services District directors split along gender lines: The guys couldn’t remember any outstanding costumes; Gail Robinette dressed up one year as “my black tuxedo cat, Foxy, and another time as one half of the Doublemint Twins”; and Amanda Rice, who often sports trendy clothes and bright hair colors that are far from natural, said, “I dress up 364 days a year. On Halloween, I wear brown hair and a suit.”

County Supervisor Bruce Gibson quipped that “I think I did the costume thing only to get to the sugar … And as an adult (chronologically, at least), I haven't really done costumes — being a supervisor is apparently scary enough.”

The Tanner family used lots of boxes for costuming. Son Sean became a human rural-route mailbox that didn’t fit in any of our cars. Grandson Dylan was “an excellent radio,” according to sister Kelsey, who trick-or-treated as a box of Rice Krispies.

At 2 a.m. on our first Halloween in Cambria, I finished sewing the aforementioned warm, fleecy costume-pajamas for my quite young sons. Adorable!

That afternoon, however, as often has been the case on Cambria Halloweens, the thermometer topped out in the low 80s. The sun was so hot during the mid-day grammar school parade through East Village that we almost had medium-rare bunny and bear.

Happy Halloween memories, folks!

Kathe Tanner is a reporter for The Cambrian and The Tribune. Her "Slice of Life" column appears biweekly. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @cambriareporter.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service